Ferrari's Innovative Electronic Steering Assist

Ferrari has roots reaching far back in the automobile industry. The company was founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929 and since that day, Ferrari has been at the forefront of new automobile innovations. Ferrari has made hybrid vehicles, invented the electrochromic roof and the Manettino dial, which is used on many of their models. Ferrari’s newest innovative initiatives have focussed on electric steering. Despite the backlash electric power steering is receiving from driving enthusiasts, Ferrari is determined to develop a model which can win over even the most critical automotive service technicians.

Electric Power Steering: Pros and Cons

The electric power steering system (EPS) was introduced approximately a decade ago as a more effective alternative to hydraulic power steering. EPS uses an electric motor with sensors that detect the torque of the steering column, to which a computer applies assistive torque via the motor. This can benefit the driver by easing the pressure of driving, but is also beneficial for removing some weight from the vehicle with the elimination of the hydraulic pump, cooler, fluid and hoses. The downside to electric power steering systems—and those pursuing auto careers may attest to this—is that much of the freedom of driving is lost. There is a widespread complaint that vehicles with electric power steering have a “lack of feel” when driving, because much of the manual process has been diverted from driver to electric motor and sensors.

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Ferrari’s Electronic Steering Assist

Ferrari has just recently patented their all-new electronic steering assist. The new system will use existing EPS hardware, but is reconfigured in order to reduce transmission error, which translates to slack between the driver turning the steering wheel and the response from the front-wheel drive. The system also aims to reduce the effort required to turn the steering wheel. The bonus is that this system does not require a whole new installation. Instead, the current EPS system will be enhanced through software which corrects certain inconsistencies, like the amount of effort needed to turn left or right with the steering wheel. While these issues wouldn’t be noticeable to the average driver, they are a critical part of the driving experience in a race car like a Ferrari.

Automobile Companies Following the EPS Trend

Although Ferrari is the first automobile company to patent their own electronic steering assist software, they are not the first company to install electric power steering in their vehicles. The 2015 Corvette Stingray uses a new electric power steering system, which the company says delivers more precise control, along with greater variability of effort for high-performance driving. The Infiniti Q50 is developing a whole new driving system which students in mechanic colleges will be itching to get their hands on. Infiniti calls it the “drive-by-wire” model, which means there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the tires – only electric signals.

What is your take on electric power steering in sports cars—do you believe it enhances or detracts from the driving experience?

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